Dear 16-Year Old Me.

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Some of you may have seen this already, but I finally had some time to check this video out this morning.

It hit home for me very quickly and apologies in advance if this post feels a bit deep.

  Fresh out of college, 21 years old, I was diagnosed with Malignant Melanoma.  Oddly enough, discovering that I had cancer was One.Big.Fluke.

I was born a Ginger.

{The tights are the same color as my legs}

Red Hair & Freckles.  Clearly the Sun and I were not going to be dear friends.  but maybe the bar and I would???

Once, while on an airplane, my Dad counted all my “dots”.  1,763.  At this point in my life I had not come to accept and love them so lets just say I was not.loving.this.dumb.plane.activity.

 I’d been good about sunscreen and my mother had lathered me up over the years at the beach and on the soccer field.  I didn’t escape a few childhood burns, but nothing terribly worrisome.

I started going to the dermatologist in high school for yearly skin checks.  While there, my derm made note of all the dots on my face and body, charting for size, color etc.  Right out of college, I went for my yearly and got a green light once again.  I had this dark freckle right on my upper abs that had been there for YEARS – no change, nothing.  This area of my body rarely saw the light of day so it was no surprise that he wasn’t worried.  It really didn’t look like anything other than a freckle, but I had a strange intuition about it.  I asked him to remove it.  He assured me it was fine.  I assured him that I was fine with him taking it off anyway.  Thank you.

3 days later I got a call I never expected.  That freckle was Malignant Melanoma.

WHAT? What I chalked up to a Vanity Removal turned into a scare that rocked me to my core.  At 21 I didn’t know how to mentally process the realities of my situation.  I only knew that I had to keep moving forward and that tears and fear were not a solution.  I would have to rely on my personal strength and the support of those around me.  I also would have to maintain the mindset of “What Is” vs. “What Could Be” and to keep myself mentally in a place to deal with each next step and not consume myself with worries about chemo, radiation, loss etc.

My memory of the rest of the story is blurry.  I have the lucky ability of mentally blocking out bad situations in order to move forward.  The end result is positive and not near as grave as it could have been.  I had 2 surgeries to remove more surface area around the Cancer.  The second involved a Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy where they took out a lymph node from under my right armpit to ensure that the Cancer had not spread. It hadn’t.  Life could move on and did.

I have two constant reminders of this journey that both look like this.

Since Scars are really just stories in our lives, I have learned a few things from this story and made a few new constants in my life:

  • Intuition is a far more powerful tool than one can imagine.  If you want something taken off, do it.  Even if the Dr. thinks its fine.  (I had one taken off as recent as 2 weeks ago – benign)
  • Skin checks at the Dr. every 6 months vs. 12 months now.
  • Sunscreen EVERY day – double if possible
  • None of us are Immune. Dark Skin, Olive Skin, Freckles. We’re all Targets.
  • Spray Tans Rock
  • You can never have too many hats.  {It may mean stealing them back from the Mr.}

Please watch the video and share it, with your friends, your family, your loved ones.  None of us are invisible, but everything starts with an awareness. Of yourself, of your skin and of what’s possible.

and wear sunscreen. religiously.

{MF Dre}

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3 thoughts on “Dear 16-Year Old Me.

  1. Thanks for sharing this video – I hadn’t seen it before.

    And thank you for sharing your story. It resonated with me because I had a melanoma removed from my upper arm several years ago – a very small mole that looked slightly pink and which my GP thought was not problematic. Luckily, something told me that I should worry and I sought a second opinion. And the next thing I knew, I was having a biopsy and being told I needed to have the mole removed because it was malignant. Like you say, it’s always good to trust your intuition!

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